Monday, January 26, 2009

Kicking into gear

The last week has been focused on getting time on the bike, interval training, running for cross training, along with core workout three times a week...oh and work let's not forget that.

My time on the bike has been divided between both road and mountain; mostly road right now as I work on hills and build up aerobic strength and build up endurance. This past weekend I did a run which included hills and plenty of them. I feel good; a little sore on Sunday; but overall I felt like I could continue after I finished a run.

During one of the rides I had an interesting conversation about how much stretching I do, when I do it, and has it helped. I can say this; if it weren't for stretching and pilates I wouldn't have half the riding ability I do today.

I hear it so often; no time to stretch after working out, to sore(??), will do it when I get home..So why stretch; well one it improves flexibility, thus improving muscle balance, which minimizes chance of injury and reduces soreness to muscles after training.

My own experience as an athlete was set aside 20 minutes per day usually morning to stretch along with post workout stretch. Now usually this stretching had me holding a stretch between 30 seconds to a minute; with the thought that the stretch (static) was doing what it was meant to do; lengthen the muscle. There would be days I the soreness in my muscles would increase after the stretch; but I always thought that's what is meant to happen.

I started looking around and seeing what other trainers, coaches, and athletes were doing in terms of stretches; and in some cases seeing quicker gains on others then I was witnessing on myself. I saw them working with stretching ropes and doing slow motion sprints with leg kick holding for very short periods of time, releasing, then repeating 10 to 12 times. This observation would be my introduction to a form of stretching called active isolated stretching (AIS); and I spoke to other athletes; their endorsement and the improvements notices; I knew this was the change I was looking for in my routine.

Unlike the traditional static stretching routines where one eases into a position and holds it for a period time the reflex causes the muscles tremble as it fights the stretch which invites injury to the muscle. While this type of stretching is better then no stretching it has its limitations; since the muscle has a stretch "reflex" that is activated after a rapid movement or a short period after the stretch

AIS has a different take or thought process on how to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of trauma on the muscle by putting the body
into best anatomical position both to maximize an isolated stretch and reduce the chance of injury. You hold each position for only two to three seconds; then you return to the start position and relax.

The stretch is repeated eight to 12 times for optimal results. The benefit of repetitions is to increase blood flow oxygen, and nutrition to the muscle tissues. In effect, AIS is a warm-up in itself.

While stretching is not the quick answer to injury problems; it is recommended athletes stretch prior to training to prepare the muscles (AIS); and post training gentle stretching to regain any flexibility lost during hard exercises and muscle fatigue.

As runners, cyclist, and other endurance athletes get older; they lose range of motion. Stretching is the best method to maintain flexibility.

I recommend doing the exercises below; repeating the movements up to 12 times.

Single Leg Pelvis Tilt
Muscles stretched: low back and gluteus maximus

Lie on back with legs straight. Flex the exercising knee and pull it toward chest by contraction of hip flexor and abdominal muscles. Place hands behind thigh to prevent pressure on knee and provide assistance.

Straight leg hamstring
Muscles stretched: hamstrings

Lie on back with legs straight. Slowly lift one leg using quadriceps (front of thigh). Assist with rope at end of movement. Note: if you have a history of back injury, bend the non-exercising leg to stabilise the spine.

Muscles stretched: gluteus mediusminimus, lateral hip, piriformis

Lie on back with legs straight. Flex left knee at 90 degree and left and place rope around mid-foot, clasping rope with opposite hand. Use left hand to stabilize thigh by clasping at knee. Contract abdomen and hip adductors to lift knee towards opposite shoulder. Assist with rope and outer hand.

Muscles stretched: external rotators of hip including piriformis, tensor fascia latae, and iliotibial band

Lie on back with left leg moved inward across center line, foot pointed inward. Wrap rope around arch of right foot. With knee straight, contract quadriceps, upper hip, and abdomens to (1) lift leg toward chest (see pic) and (2) bring leg across hips.

Muscles stretched: rectus femoris

Lie on left side and bring both knees to chest. With the left hand grasp foot from outside. With right hand, grasp right ankle and extend right thigh back by contracting buttocks and hamstrings and, assisting with hand, heel should press into buttocks.

Hip Flexor
Muscles stretched: rectus femoris

Kneel down on left knee (place pillow or cushion under same knee). Moving forward onto flexed front leg (right) keep pelvis and back stable by contracting the abdomen. As you move forward, contract buttocks and hamstrings to flex left heel to left buttock. Assist stretch with one or both hands, bringing heel to buttock as flexibility allows.

Adductors (long)
Muscles stretched:long adductors, longus, magnus, gracilis

Lie on back with legs extended and wrap rope around arch of left foot. Point left foot inward and lift leg to side by contracting outer thigh and hip muscles. Assist with rope, pulling outward.
Adductors (short)
Muscles stretched: short adductors, pectinius, adductor brevis, proximal and long adductors

Sit with soles of feet placed together. Contract outside of hips, spreading thighs as far as possible. Use arms between knees to assist stretch at end of movement.

Achilles tendon/soleus
Muscles stretched: lower and deep calf including Achilles tendon

Sit with right leg fully straight and left knee bent at 90 degrees. Wrap hands around balls of foot. Lift toes toward body, contracting shin muscles and assisting with pull from hands.

Upper Calf
Muscles stretched: gastrocnemius

Sit with legs fully extended and about six inches apart. Loop rope around the ball of left foot. Straighten left knee and pull toes towards you by contracting shin muscles. Assist with rope. For deeper stretch, lean forward at trunk and allow foot to leave floor when pulled.

Source: Trinity College Dublin Athletic Club

Friday, January 16, 2009

Feeling it the next day....

So you had a good exercise day; in fact you pushed until you felt the burn through out the legs and arms; and not for just a short period; but for an extended duration.

A valuable piece of advice I was given one day regarding training; "You will never know what it feels to run 6 minute miles if all you do is train for 7 minutes"; essentially what was being said is if you train the same day after day you will never become physically stronger or have greater endurance.

Its important in any sport to work out hard a few days of the week for an extended duration to teach the muscles how to improve using fatigue as the tool. The next day you wake up; and you feel sore in the muscles that were exercised; and you know what caused it; its the prevention part that people start to look into.

Next-day muscle soreness was thought to be caused by lactic acid build up; but recent studies have shown this is not the case. Lactic acid built up in the muscles during periods of max endurance; will reduce immediately once you cool down; and there is no residual left after a period of time. So cooling down doesn't prevent muscle soreness; neither does stretching after exercising since muscle contraction isn't the culprit either.

The soreness is caused by damage to the muscle fibers themselves. Studies completed; revealed that the muscle fibers on the day after a hard workout showed signs of bleeding along with disruption of the fibers themselves when contracted. The degree of muscle damage can be determined by measuring an enzyme in the bloodstream called CPK. A creatine found in muscles; CPK is released into the bloodstream when muscles are damaged. Researchers measuring CPK levels in the bloodstream; have deteremined that
poeple who continued to exercise when feeling soreness in the muscle are the ones to feel on the next day as well.

There is no real prevention; but rather this soreness should be used as a guide to your training. I do days where I push until I start to feel the burn; back off; then continue the pace again and exercise to this burn. I continue until my muscles start to feel stiff and fatigued and then the workout stops. The next day depending on how sore I am I either take a recovery day, slow the pace, or do a cross training activity. Experience and recommendations from others have told me not to train those muscles again until the soreness has gone away; you risk an injury to that muscle group.

This may be why I believe in cross training so much; push hard a few days a week in my primary sport; do active stretching on the muscles the day's between; and look to other activies to teach my body new tricks.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Grassroots the New Mainstream

As I hang out a new sign and move forward in '09 embarking on a new career which includes an attempt at freelance writing on a few sites about health, wellness, training, my cycling, new gear; one point I ponder about is how one gets their message across to those still in the mainstream.

When one starts a blog; the hope is it garners enough grass root support that the message grows to a target audience. As I talk and write about mountain biking, cycling, support for these two communities, training, racing, what gear is working, and the good it brings to my life; I hope that others read, comment and push the message along.

As I've looked at various outlets I came across a site that has been gaining momentum over the last couple of months; The Printed Blog. A little blurb; which I pulled from their site; that describes what t
he mission of their service is about;

theprintedblog an independent media outlet that aggregates user-generated content from the Internet and publishes it twice daily via print. The result is a revolutionary newspaper that reads and functions like a web feed – yet can still be unfolded on the train or spread across the breakfast table, for an uninterrupted, pleasurably tactile read.

I look forward to it's launch and first issue in print. It may be what the newspaper/publishing industry needs in finding new life as it tries to maintain existence. Will it be what is called a "market disruption"; if the continued growth of supporters and watchers on various Social networking sites is a indicator; this may be the start of the next revolution. Time will tell.

It gives us a chance to get the grass roots support of cycling out there, the various local coalitions, riding groups, events, along with training advice that might encourage others. I challenge those who read this; to send them cycling pictures, various event recaps, and all that is good about cycling.

The Printed Blog

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Riding Weather in January

Surreal; apologize to the rest of the nation in the deep freeze; but as I'm writing on running in the cold and snow; my region is in a heat wave. It was a high of 70 yesterday.

Going wild and riding with no leggings today!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cool gear, places, and tips for 2009

A week into the 2009; hope by now most of you have curbed the tree, purged any of the leftover fudge, exchanged the gifts for the gear you really wanted.

Plenty of great rides, cool people and places to look back on from 2008; but its also time to look ahead to 2009. Started circling the dates and registering for races that I want to compete in;
start laying out my training program; and of course the gear that I must have.

So here is what excites me in 2009; besides the usual post workout peanut butter sandwich and coffee, and spending plenty of quality time on the bike(s);


Running Shoes

ASICS GEL-Kayano 15: The continued evolution of this shoe keeps me coming back for more. I have never been disappointed with a pair of the Kayano product line; 2009 brings more cushioning to the heel along with a lighter shoe thanks to the material used. I use this shoe on both pavement and trail; it takes a beating and holds up.

Cycling Shoes

I had mentioned this on a previous blog in '08; but the most anticipated shoe for me is the Lake MX401. Moldable to your feet, extra support and protection in the shoe, Boa system, carbon sole, light weight, and built for XC racing or Cyclocross.


Mountain Hardwear base layers/pullovers really caught my eye and impressed me in 2008. The 2009 Spring line line offers a half zip base layer that can handle what ever the weather throws at it.

Gear innovations

Ergon how I love thee...great bar ends, backpacks, and gloves that we get teased with from abroad.

Just looking at the BC3 backpack from Ergon one can see that its built to take what the outdoors can throw at it. Erg
on describes this as their Transalp backpack; and is meant to go for days or for the daily commuting grind. Made from a heavy duty water proof material, water proof zippers, black on the outside, white on the inside to make it easier to find things, a helmet holder, along with a detachable organizer. This bag is made gender specific; which means not only the straps are different in size but also the width and curve of the hip belt.

Bicycles (Road, Mountain, Cyclocross)

IBIS Hakkalugi Cyclocross frame

I just like saying "Hakkalugi"; makes me laugh. Seriously though; it was the one element of last year's Interbike show that really impressed me and had me sold. The fact we are looking at a carbon frame around 1000grams; along with the return of the Canti mounts and the hand j*b cable stop; a classic cross geometry; this bike will withstand a year on the 'Cross circuit to say the least. Its yellow frame along with the Flemish emblem is a sign of respect to the region of Belgium called Flanders; where it's people are known for their success in Cyclocross. Welcome back Lugi....we missed you.



Plenty of places across this great continent of ours to go for a trail run, road or mountain bike ride. From the picturesque scenery to the punishing climbs here are a few places that have me thinking of a needed road trip in 2009 My backyard; Marin; for those who are trail runners; should plan a vacation around. One the trails vary in terrain and difficulty; but its the breath taking scenery that sucks you in and makes you forget that you've just run 20 miles. Stay at Cavallo Point; while your here; a new resort on a renovated army base on the Sausalito side of the GoldenGate bridge; its right next door to the start of the Marin Headlands. Besides boxing up the bike; mountain or road; and heading to Europe for some riding; which isn't part of this year's budget; staying close to home is more realistic.

Mountain Biking

The return of singletrack has definitely been on the upswing the last couple of years; and no other area defines mountain biking (sorry Marin) better then the Fort Collins/Boulder/Colorado Springs area. If your a serious Mtber then I recommend planning a vacation in '09 and ride some of the trails in this area, Buffalo Creek (Pine), Trail 401, and Colorado Trail - Kenosha (Breckenridge) are just a few that will push your limits.

Road ride

For an extended road trip; try a trip to the South; Asheville, NC to be more specific. Asheville has become the destination of choice over the past few years to both road and mountain bikers alike; with miles and various trails/routes to chose from. The road around Asheville is relatively flat; with some rolling; but as you head out along the Blue Ridge Parkway and further to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park; the ascents start to become a challenge. Check out Blue Ridge Bicycle Club site for more information and various routes.


Marin County Marathon 04/19/2009; hopefully the first of many for this new comer. Yes its on the same weekend of the big kid; Boston; but its bringing a little trail and pavement to some of the various events. Besides being in my backyard; I like that that its promoters are creating an event that is sustainable; Shouldn't that be a prerequisite for a running event being environmentally aware.

The North Face Endurance Challenge is entering its third year; and it is only getting better. From its 10K to 50 mile course; it offers a challenge to all those trail runners out there. With multiple race dates across various regions in the country concludes with the championship in the my backyard the Marin Headlands in December.

I would like to say Leadville is the race to be at for 2009; but its the race to be at every year; just have to be selected in the lottery. The 50 miler is open to all; just make sure to register early. The race is though is the BC bike race, a seven day mountain bike stage race from Victoria to Whistler; some the best singletrack in the world. June 28 - July 4.


Smaller portions, local, and sustainable. Buy local if you can; support your local CSA; Farmers Market; eat what's in season; you will find that this one change will not only impact how you feel health wise; but it will provide that needed s
upport in '09 to your local economy.

I hope that one positive outcome of this current recession is that restaurants cut back on the portions served versus the quality of food; it would do us all some good.

I can't go without mentioning the beverages of choice and those who I support and hope they continue to churn out a quality product in '09.

Coffee; from a wellness and health perspective; you may find that a cup in the
morning or post workout will help in your recovery. From Blue Bottle Coffee (Bay Area), Stumptown (Portland, OR), and Intelligentsia (Chicago, IL); you can't find better roasters around; supporting both the organic and the local grower movement alike.

Beer; yes it doesn't hurt to have a glass here or there; all in moderation right. For all the local brewers in the Bay Area; I always stop and peer what New Belgium Brewing has produced for a seasonal brew. Not only have they been producing some of the best beer in the country; but their continuing support for the cycling community is an added bonus

Fitness Training

Bootcamps, cross training, kettle bells, educated/certified training professionals, sports specific training, and referrals to trainers by physicans. Trends that will continue to grow in 2009; even with an economic downturn looming out there; people will look for what training has the best cost benefit for them.

On an end note; as another cycling season begins; I hope that 2009 generates increased interest at the grass roots level; and evolves into support for that local bike store down the block and the smaller publications who are promoting the sport such as Cyclocross, Mountain Flyer, and Bike Monkey.

What makes me smile every day in '09

Oh...and I can never forget the year older in March....but at eight...still a big puppy.

Hope the best for all of you in 2009. Thanks for your support.